Simple and Essential DIY Bike Maintenance
Endless things could be said about the benefits of having a clean drivetrain, but the main benefit is that with a clean and well maintained drivetrain, your bike will last longer, run more efficiently and, in turn, will make you go faster (because that’s what it’s all about). Being guilty of this myself, it is a very important piece of bike maintenance that is very easily neglected. Rather than going into detail about all of the benefits, the purpose of this article will simply be to illustrate a fool proof way to wash your bike and clean your drivetrain so that it comes out spotless every single time.
1) Inspect Chain for Wear and Damage
Before you get started cleaning, be sure to give your chain a good look for any obvious damage such as bends or cracks. Also check the chain for wear – as you ride your bike your chain is under a consistent load and over time will begin to stretch. As it does this, your shifting will become more difficult and will begin to “skip” between gears. A trick to check for chain wear is to rest a ruler or tape measure alongside the lower run of the chain and see if you can measure exactly 12 inches between 12 pins (as pictured). If the 12th pin lines up with 12 inches then you chain is good to go. If the 12th pin exceeds 12 inches by 1/8th of an inch or more, it’s time to replace.
2) Apply Degreaser to your Drivetrain
Take your chosen degreaser and pour some of it into a small container. I personally use a small yogurt container which gives me around 150mL – this should be more than enough. Use your old paintbrush to literally paint on the degreaser to your drivetrain. Make sure you get back to your derailleur and jockey wheels, up to your cassette, all along your chain and up to your cranks. Give your crank a couple of backwards spins to let the degreaser seep in between the rollers on your chain and repeat the painting process. Let this sit and work its magic for 5 – 10 minutes.
4) Clean the Drivetrain
So after 5 – 10 minutes, the degreaser you applied earlier should’ve worked its magic and loosened up all of the grease and grime from your drivetrain, now it’s just a matter of cleaning it off. Before doing this, shift gears to move your chain onto the big ring on the front – it is much easier to clean when in this position. Take your stiff brush and begin scrubbing the derailleur, jockey wheels, cassette and chain rings. Once you’ve give those a once over, pedal backwards and, with your brush hold it along the chain – this should loosen any grit and grime in between the rollers that the degreaser has lifted. Once this is done, take your second sponge and with the hot soapy water begin to wash your drivetrain. What I tend to do here is first go over the entire drivetrain once; similar to what you did with your stiff brush. Then with your sponge, hold it against the chain on your big ring and pedal backwards with your other hand. While still pedalling backwards, take your soapy sponge and CAREFULLY pinch the jockey wheels as they spin to remove any remaining grease that’s hiding back there. To finish off, grab the chain with your soapy sponge and pedal backwards. The drivetrain should be spotless right about now. You’ll be able to tell this if you take one of your rags and run it along the chain. If it’s clean, you’ve done the job right. If not, just repeat steps 2 and 4.
6) Lubing your Chain
The final and probably most important step of the process. What you’ll want to do is find the “missing link” on your chain (as pictured). For most bikes this is what you use to remove the chain and is a good starting point for lubricating your chain as well. Now very carefully, apply 1 drop of lubricant to each of the rollers starting from the missing link and turning the crank as you go. Once you make your way back to the “missing link”, give your chain a few slow spins to let the lubricant work its way in between the rollers. With another one of your rags (this one should be dry) grab the chain, pedal backwards and wipe off the excess lubricant that has made its way to the outer plates. We do this because the lube serves no purpose there and will just collect dirt and dust as you ride making your chain look a lot dirtier than it actually is.
And now you’re finished! Repeat this process every couple of weeks. Your bike will now look and ride like new again. This will now hopefully give you that extra motivation to get training, go for that strava KOM, and sign up for that next MultiSport race. Looking forward to seeing some spotless bikes in transition – be sure to say hi!
See you there,